v Lydney Town (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 13 Aug 2022)



SATURDAY, 13 AUGUST 2022  (ATT: 84)

After three solid performances at the start of their competitive season, Tuffley Rovers showed the extent of their improvement under Neil Mustoe’s management, as they took maximum points against fellow Gloucestershire side Lydney Town, with braces from Jack Beardsell and Mason Lewis securing the win.

After a promising performance away at Brimscombe & Thrupp on the opening day of the season, Rovers provided an ambitious Malvern Town outfit with a stern test in their previous league game, before succumbing to a 3-1 defeat. However, after a lacklustre 2021/22 season, the performances in this new season will be giving the Rovers faithful plenty of hope for the season ahead and the emphatic nature of the win against Town was in stark contrast to the performance at Lydney in December 2021, when The Town had triumphed by the same scoreline.

Mustoe’s Rovers are a very different side from the team on that day, with only Warren Mann and Jack Beardsell in the starting line-up in the previous defeat, and it was the latter who played a pivotal role in ensuring the outcome was very different on this occasion.

In the extreme heat that had been predicted in the lead up to the game, both sides had traded blows in the early stages, without any clear chance, but the game did come to life after the first drinks break on 17 minutes.

Within sixty seconds of the re-start, Henry Birkett won possession and fed Beardsell, whose cross to the back post was cleared by Liam Shepppard. However, the ball went straight back to Beardsell, who struck a wonderful first time shot that was arrowed into the bottom corner and beyond Lydney’s Rich Thomas, to make it 1-0.

Beardsell had another opportunity shortly after, but he headed Birkett’s cross narrowly wide, after an earlier set-piece was only half-cleared.

With 25 minutes played, Rovers’ keeper Elliot Jones launched a huge goal kick deep into Town territory and Mason Lewis was quickest to react, getting beyond his marked before driving a shot low and beyond Thomas from eighteen yards, to make it 2-0.

Excellent defending from Rovers kept any threat from an experienced Lydney Town line-up, including ex-Cinderford Town man Lewis Bamford, at bay and it was Mustoe’s side who continued to threaten, with Birkett prominent in much of their attacking play.

That it remained 2-0 at the interval owed a lot to Rovers’ keeper, Jones, who made a wonderful save in the closing seconds of the first half, with Declan Morley-Lyne free-kick bent towards the top corner of the Rovers goal. Jones got across his goal and was able to palm the ball away from goal and to safety.

Callum McGuirk replaced Noah Smerdon at the interval but it didn’t appear to interrupt Rovers’ flow and on 50 minutes, after Lydney had failed to clear their lines, Birkett seized possession and got the ball out wide to Lewis, who drove at his marker, before unleashing a low cross/shot that found its way into the bottom corner of the net, to make it 3-0.

Sammie Hicks had a shot on goal, shortly after, that was well held by Thomas, and the Lydney keeper made another good stop thirty seconds later to deny Beardsell. However, from the ensuing corner, the Rovers wide-man wasn’t to be denied, heading home Birkett’s corner to get his second of the game and making it 4-0 in the process.

Jones made another great save after 65 minutes, pushing away Bamford’s free-kick to keep it at 4-0.

Within two minutes Ryan Dobbins might have made it 5-0 but he was denied first by Thomas, then by a block by Sam Elliott, who eventually forced the ball away from goal.

Given the unremitting heat of the day, it was no surprise that both sides then made a series of substitutions and the addition of drinks breaks slowed the game further.

Beardsell might have had another goal on 80 minutes, but his header, from another Birkett set-piece, went high over Thomas’ goal. That proved to be the last chance of note and Rovers held out to ensure their best points return after three league fixtures since the 2017/18 season. Four points might not be the greatest haul – and certainly offers no sense of security – but it took until 4 September to accrue the same number of points in the previous season, so this might well be seen as a sign of progress.